Online Reviews of Online Reviews: The Red Hot II Saga.


One day I was reading some heavily misspelled, half literate hate review of something that could not possibly have been as bad as the review itself and I thought, I should review these reviews. I never write reviews of anything, so, in this weird online space, I would easily fill the role of the critic. Never creating actual reviews of my own, but judgmentally assessing the relative value and beauty of another’s work. What could possibly go wrong? Here, then, is the first in what I hope to become a series of reviews that I call: “Online Reviews of Online Reviews”.

 Today’s episode: “The Red Hot II Saga”

I was looking through Yelp to find some interesting reviews to write about. I started by looking through some restaurant reviews, mostly of places I’d been before. It didn’t take long before I discovered something. Rarely does such an epic struggle come to you in the form of the Chinese food you ate last night, but this world, she is mysterious. For your reviewing pleasure, a review of Red Hot II from February 1, 2011:     

The closing of the original Red Hot is a dark chapter in Park Slope lore. The story and all its gory details have been passed down to me by fellow Brooklynites – the mysterious shutting of its doors, the forty days and forty nights of tumultuous monsoon-like weather, the subsequent 7th Ave. riots by torch-wielding residents who were out for the scalps of those responsible. Whose scalps they were after is decidedly unclear, but as legend goes, they wanted those shits like Brad Pitt in Inglourious Basterds.

Then, the sky parted and the warmth of our sun had returned. Red Hot re-opened (this time with a Roman numeral II), the dining area was packed that first glorious night, and the creators of Lost cited their cathartic final scene of the series on this very event, for even they recognized this food to be heaven on earth.

Who knows really how much all of this stuff is true – it was before my time in the neighborhood – and all I can really be certain of is that Red Hot is my ultimate go-to for the more-frequent-than-is-humanly-healthy craving for satisfying Szechuan.

I recognize this is “Americanized” Chinese food, but forgive me for not knowing any better. And, frankly, if that’s the genre it’s to be lumped under, then so be it. Whatever the label, this is personally the best Szechuan of its kind I’ve ever had. My repeated orders will attest to that statement.

And by repeated orders, I’m referring to the fact that as a regular calling up for delivery and simply providing a phone number, then hearing the voice on the other end ask, “Same order?”, well, this couldn’t be an easier transaction.

This order in question is comprised of the following – Steamed Pork Dumplings, Scallion Pancakes, Moo Shu Chicken, and Vegetable Fried Rice. Each item is fresh, delicious, and standard-setting for my God-given palate. Call me naive if you will, but this is as good as it gets in my book. Most Szechuan dishes at other establishments are often fatty, dripping with sauce, and I’m guessing equate to a few days’ worth of Weight Watchers points. Red Hot claims to specialize in vegetarian cuisine, and while I’m far from a vegetarian myself, cleanliness and quality is prevalent across all of their offerings.

Red Hot is not the place where you will find out-dated pictures of greasy food plastered across light boards and hanging above counters where some woman in her hundreds screams to the open kitchen behind her. Perhaps this makes Red Hot less authentic for some people, but for me, I get the feeling I’m walking into someone’s cozy, low-key dining room. Because let’s be honest, at the rate I order from here, it might as well be my official second home anyway.”

                        —Dan R.

I mean. What can I say? It’s a thing of beauty this review. The heartbreak, the re-birth of the Christ-like Chinese restaurant, actual information giving you some idea of what he likes about the place, all spun together into a terrific review. Full points, Dan R. Well done.

Fascinated, I found that other reviews also documented this pivotal moment in the history of Park Slope. For instance, from June 29, 2008:

 “Red Hot has re-opened under a new name – Red Hot II. I decided to do something different by revisiting it in person with a friend, which is a new experience for me having never entered the senior Red Hot. I did however order quite frequently from them. So frequently, in fact, that they were on speed dial right between my girlfriend and my mom (that shouldn’t be appalling to you, I think we all eat more than we talk to our mothers).

I walked into this chinese restaurant and discovered something I rarely ever see in a chinese restaurant – a packed house with a wait. 5 minutes later and we had a table for two and I briefly glanced over the menu realizing it was exactly the same, so I knew what I was having. On the way over I decided to give my friend who was visiting from out of town (he lives in Manhattan) the back story on the place. He seemed shocked that one person, let alone an entire community, was so deeply effected by it’s closing. “You don’t understand the depth of a Brooklynite, do you?”, I replied.

“All you brooklyn people are fucked in the head’, he says.

“Watch it!”, says someone walking by who obviously wasn’t in tune to the whole conversation.

“And sensitive too”, he replies.

I order my usual, Kung Pao Wheat Glutens and an egg roll. He orders something off the chef’s specialties. I was surprised when a plate of Kung Pao Tofu comes out, I express quitely that it is different and the waitress picks up on it but walks away. I take a bite and its actually quite good but I am still disappointed. She comes back and takes my plate away apologizing and comes out a few minutes later with the Wheat Gluten that I had really ordered. The food was better than I remembered. The service was a bit slow and I imagine delivery is not going to be as fast as it usually is to start. I can understand this and I can give the service a pass for a little while.

There is still a mystery surrounding the closing a month or so ago. A sign said “personal reasons” on the door. Then they board up and several sources online say that they will re-open in August. But here we are, the last weekend in June and it’s reopened, remodeled, and re-staffed. At least I assume this because I’ve never been in before, however the unfamiliarity of some of the staff with the menu leads me to believe that it was re-staffed. One older asian gentlemen seems to have made the cut and his only comment was “under new management”. He said it suspiciously like there was something he knew that he wasn’t telling.

My only regret was not grabbing a take out menu. I have no idea what the new number is. The old one is disconnected and I really want to order from them tonight!”

                                    — Eric I

Speed Dial, you guys! I’m sure Eric I has figured it out in the last 5 years but, for the record, Red Hot II’s number is (718) 369-2577. You’re all very welcome.

But there is even more here. The residents are not in agreement at all. There are a number of equally long, negative reviews. And while none of them quite achieves the narrative beauty of Dan R, they are, many of them, every bit as passionate. In fact, a fair amount of the loathing and resentment in these reviews seems to be aimed at the people behind all the positive reviews. It seems that an underground Park Slope Civil War has been raging for years. Behold, from March 27, 2010:

 “Those who are familiar with my restaurant reviews may note that I tend to “poo-poo” a restaurant only when it has been guilty of causing severe gastronomic disappointment. Unfortunately, after trying this Chinese restaurant no fewer than three times, I am left with no alternative.

Frankly, I feel bad giving this place such a poor rating. On each of my visits (two of which were for take-out), the service was decidedly polite and gracious, and the restaurant had a reasonable number of people packed in. They offer the appearance of a solid dining choice, and have a vegetarian-friendly menu (a bonus for my many veggie-friends).

Unfortunately, absolutely nothing about the food justifies return visits. In fact, the only reason I even bothered repeatedly trying Red Hot II was my refusal to accept that a seemingly popular restaurant could, in fact, be anywhere near this bad.

Regardless of what I ordered, I found the food the worst of both worlds: absolutely drowned with oil, and yet simultaneously so bland that it simply couldn’t be enjoyed, even with extra soy sauce.

Does it matter if vegetables are fresh and crisp if the sheen of grease renders them incandescent? Red Hot earns the dubious honor of introducing me to broccoli that wasn’t seared in a well-seasoned wok so much as blanched in oil — and even the oil was tasteless to the point of peculiarity.

Does it matter if the wontons are a nicely balanced, delicate texture (if thin), when they are floating in broth so briny that it could have been used to dehydrate Tutankhamun’s corpse? How is it even possible for something with that much salt to have so little nuance in flavor?

Does it matter if a selection has a generous portion of chicken, if the chicken requires a bovine level of digestive prowess? By which means can one render thin slices of chicken this chewy — seriously, what did they do, cook it in a microwave, on high?

My experiences could not have simply been the result of an off night in the kitchen, because I’ve twice returned to this restaurant to give them another chance, only to end up with more punishment… which makes the establishment’s apparently loyal following all the more puzzling to me. Why bother, especially in such an otherwise culinarily gifted neighborhood?

Sorry folks. I feel guilty for this, but nothing I’ve tried here has been worth the calories… not even close. Blah.”

                        — Joe M.

After looking over Joe M’s profile, I have to say I’m tempted to do a whole review just on Joe M’s Yelp account.  His profile quote is “Something like 50% of the places I’ve poo-pooed have gone out of business,” which suggests a difficulty with the whole causation/correlation thing. It also informs the gravity he implies in the opening of this review. “I’m left with no alternative,” he says. The way someone would say, “you made me do this” right before they pull the trigger. And then again at the end. “I feel guilty for this.” Because, of course, we now know from his profile that there is “something like” a 50% chance he has just doomed this place to failure. The bankruptcy gun has been fired. The dice of failure have been cast. And fully 3 sides of each of those fateful dice spell doom. Doom, people. That’s a heavy weight to have to carry around on one set of shoulders. Luckily, Joe M. (whose Yelp nickname is, I kid you not, “Joey”, as in Joe “Joey” M) says that when he’s not yelping he’s “probably working or at the gym.” I’m guessing all that gym time is just so he can measure up to the extreme burden that comes with the power of his reviews. Heavy stuff Mr. M.  Sleep well my brother.

Looking past the fantastically interesting case of Joe “Joey” M, there are a couple of other negative reviews that caught my attention while reading through the Yelp saga of Park Slope Chinese food. The tale of star crossed lovers Kezam O. and Neera J. from January 6, 2008:

“My girlfriend used to get take out from here and she acknowledges it was generally fine.

But then one day we ate in the actual restaurant. I ordered the sesame chicken, which was made with bad chicken.

To be clear, by “bad” I don’t mean to say the chicken wasn’t cooked right or I simply didn’t like it. I mean it was “off”, beyond “sell by” date, and should not have been served to people. This was very obvious.

To make matters worse, when we complained the staff were not only rude, but they insisted on charging us for the meal because we had eaten some of the broccoli. They did end up giving us a 10 percent discount, but they were not happy about it.

I probably should have called 311 and reported the incident, but didn’t.

There are a couple other very negative reviews of this place below this one which you should probably read. One mentions finding a cock roach in the food; the other finding meat in a vegetarian dish. Those reviews would seem to support the notion that a call to the health department and possibly the Department of Consumer Affairs is in order.

Needless to say, wouldn’t eat here using someone else’s stomach. Definitely won’t be going near the place again.”

                                    —Kezam O.   

 I’m not sure whether a cock roach is the same as a cockroach. But I assume it is something far, far dirtier.

But wait, another view of the tale of the bad chicken and the 10% discount, this time by the girlfriend her very own self:

“So I must preface this review by saying that when I lived in Park Slope, this was my “go-to” for good greasy Chinese delivery. It was dreamy. I was so excited that Chinese restaurants in NYC have brown rice (which Thai restaurants do not… it is the opposite in Boston, where I used to live). THe food was fast and yummy. Their sesame chicken had that perfect crispiness, even with delivery.

And then, the inevitable happened. The dream died.

My boyfriend and I went to the actual restaurant one lovely evening. We ordered the sesame chicken and something else. The other food was fine, but the chicken was BAD. It tasted like someone had frozen the chicken a day too late, and not quite fully defrosted it before cooking. It was just off. Once my boyfriend and I realized it was not right, we had already eaten half of the broccoli garnish.

Apparently eating the garnish at this restaurant equals “no taking the item off your bill”. Even if eating it would probably make you puke for a few days. We tried to return it and got all kinds of attitude from their staff. They finally consented to a 10% discount on the bill. Definitely not a Danny Meyer type of experience.

Sadly this has soured me from the restaurant and I will not return. I read a review below about people finding a roach in their food, and meat in vegetarian meals. On both occasions, any complaints were met with attitude, and less than stellar customer service. Unacceptable.”

                                    —Neera J.

Like Rashomon, but way less interesting, we get the seperate views from each member of the party. Marvelous! It would seem, though, based on their Yelp profiles, that Neera J and Kezam O have now gone their separate ways. Neera to Auckland, New Zeland, poor Kezam left lonely here in Brooklyn. Perhaps they couldn’t agree on everything the way they could on the foulness of their deep fried hunks of sauce covered chicken. The inevitable happened. The dream died. This life! She is cruel!

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Eric Wilson Harris.

There is a man. He lives on Nostrand Avenue here in Brooklyn, his name is Eric Wilson Harris, and he is responsible for the creation of a fair amount of the music that I have been listening to these past few years.

What does that mean?

Well, from a technical perspective it means quite a lot of things. But let’s say that it means this man has sat in front of a computer in a small, often very hot room, and put a lot of time, thought and effort into the creation of sounds, and that these sounds are unique and beautiful in a wonderful way, and that these sounds have made their way into my life and my ears and the ears of many other people and that they have become special to us. I venture further to say that if you have not heard these sounds, if you have not had this unusual pleasure, that they would also become special to you once you had the chance to let them into your ears and your life as well.  

When listening to these sounds, it often seems as if you are listening to sounds that exist in multiple environments, multiple worlds at once. The effect is that you are forced to let go of the way that you hear and sense things out in your day to day existence and accept the impossibility of this universe, this impossible multi-world universe, created by the man who lives on Nostrand Avenue, on their own, often unspeakably beautiful terms.

If you haven’t heard these sounds, you are in both luck and the right place at the right time, because here is a sample:

And Another:

And another:

And another:

Now, there is a problem: The computer, the one that the man sits in front of in that small hot room on Nostrand Avenue for all of those thousands of hours creating these delightfully unusual, brilliantly and breathtakingly original sounds has malfunctioned. Terminally. It is dead and he needs a new one. Unfortunately, these things cost money and there is very little of that to go around in the business of being brilliant and original while producing records for local songwriters.  And so we are raising funds in his name through a Rockethub project so that he can get back to doing this thing that we all so badly need him to do. You can go here to help out:

Eric Wilson Harris has produced records for a whole lot of the most talented people that I know, and would like to continue doing so. If you are a musician, meeting E.W. often leads to a desire to collaborate with him. That is why nearly everyone I know here has. The reason is that there is no one else like him. His combination of talent and unique ability, his willingness to work very, very hard for not very much money, his overall benign and amiable eccentricity, make him one of a kind. A perfect original.

Let me add this, I am not a religious person. But I believe in certain ideas in a nearly religious manner. One of those ideas is justice. To want E.W to succeed is to want justice. There are other people that I could say this about, but no one deserves it more than E.W. Harris. And, see, the funny thing about ideas is that they are capable of physical, worldly manifestation, but only if you act in a way that rolls the ball in the right direction. Some things are hard, and extremely complicated. This is simple and easy. To roll the ball in the right direction, to aid E.W. in finding success, to serve the manifestation of justice, all you have to do is go to THIS WEBSITE and give a few bucks so that the man on Nostrand Avenue can go back to doing the thing that the world needs him to do. Recording sounds.

We have one week. Let’s all do the right thing. Just this once. Let’s bring down the night with our cacophony.

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From the Archives: Eat That Guitar Chris Michael Besmirches the Name of a Founding Father – Alex “Killa Killa” Hamilton.

Alex Killa Hamilton

A few years ago I had a blog in which I wrote things. Odd things. On this, the day we celebrate freedom and the founding of our great nation, I thought it might be nice to share one of those things with all of you. Warning: The first two quotes are actually from an interview Playboy did with Charlie Sheen and were not actually spoken, as far as I know, by foundng father of the American republic Alexander Hamilton. Anyway, here it is:   

Alexander Hamilton was born in the sleepy island community of St Croix on January 11, 1757.  From the time he was a young boy Hamilton, or “Ham Killa Killa” as he became known in his teenage years, showed a keen predilection for learning and discipline. It is unclear, but has been suggested by a few scholars that this discipline fetish may have led to the accumulation of a number of ball gags, whips, vice grips and leather evening-wear rumored to have been found in a trunk by a bed in his summer home near Virginia Beach.

As an adult during the war for independence, Hamilton took on responsibilities under President George Washington, becoming the equivalent of his chief of staff. It is during this period that Hamilton first began to experiment with marijuana.  This, of course, led to his infamous use of harder drugs. In a late memoir written only weeks before his death Hamilton writes:

“I thought, all right, if I can’t stop, I’m going to take this thing as far as I can. I wasn’t going to dabble and mope about. Let’s get on a horse and drive this fucking circus completely out of town

I decided to turn up the volume. Let’s stop sleeping, let’s stop eating and just fucking party. I was smoking about a pound and a half of cocaine a month toward the end. That’s a lot. It was hard-core—cleaner than crack because you cook it yourself—but so what?”

It was during his stint as this nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury that the drug abuse and sexual addictions started to take a seriously dark turn. As Hamilton writes in the Federalist Papers:

“I was doing a lot of amyl at the time, and that tends to get the sex thing going. Amyl and Heineken: the Amsterdam combination. Jesus, what a nightmare. You can stay hard, but you’re shooting blanks after a while. Then it becomes about approaching the number. We said 10 each and you’re on eight, and you’re going, I need some fucking pasta or steak or something. Fuck it: Heineken, amyl—that’s my dinner. Then you get to nine. We didn’t want to leave there saying, ‘We got 17 but we aimed for 20.’ It was ridiculous.”

It was during one of these wild trips to Amsterdam with Vice President Aaron Burr that Hamilton’s untamed impulses turned murderous.  Noted Hamilton scholar Dean Webster Collins wrote in his revealing 1974 book, Axe to Grind: Alexander ‘Killa Killa’ Hamilton and the Demons That Destroyed Him:

Upon seeing Burr’s young daughter’s face, Hamilton was filled with an irrational but uncontrollable rage. He grasped the young child’s throat and before anything could be done the child fell lifeless upon the floor. Hamilton stared blankly upon the body before him and then, suddenly, as if breaking from a daze, famously asked, ‘Dear lord, what have I done?’” 

This act led to the well known duel that ended Hamilton’s troubled life. It has been stated many times that had Hamilton’s nerves been in better shape he may have fared better in the deadly contest. The drugs, it is said, had ruined the once great man’s coordination, rendering him an easy target for the sober and straight-laced Burr.

Perhaps the most tragic element to this story though was that at the time of the duel Hamilton had been preparing for what many of his inner circle claimed would be the greatest comeback tour in the history of the pop world. It is unfortunate not only that he was robbed of this opportunity but that we, as a people, have been robbed of the gift these performances would have bestowed upon our young nation. Rest in Peace Killa.

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(Gonna Tell Myself) It’s All Going To Be Okay.

First World Lo-Fi: The iPad Sessions.

First World Lo-Fi: The iPad Sessions.


A while back I came up with this idea for an experiment. I would build some multi-track recordings with an iPad microphone and Garage Band for iPad, and then posting the results online. This as a way to periodically remind people that I make music sometimes. Lately the projects have been getting more complicated from a logistical standpoint. Like way more complicated. In fact, for some of these recordings it would have been significantly faster to do the same thing with conventional equipment. This combined with a busy schedule means that I’ve been running at a rough average of one recording per 4 months or so. Hopefully I can eventually improve on this pace.


For now, we have a few one-off type recordings, including my first attempt at the project – a Valentinos cover – “It’s All Over Now”, and we have three recordings of a more sophisticated (if still barely listenable) nature. Today I’m posting the third of these more complicated entries. The song is called “(Gonna Tell Myself) It’s All Going To Be Okay.” You can find it HERE or HERE. Or, just maybe, you can hear it right here: 


I’m thinking of putting these together into a little package at some point. I have also been putting together a plan to embark on a journey towards a non-iPad EP. I would then take 5 or 6 iPad recordings with some nice do it yourself style packaging, and give them away as a free bonus for purchasing the EP. 

I have to assume that if your still reading, you might be interested enough in these songs to have an opinion, as to which 5 or 6 songs you’d like to see on an EP. If so, please feel free to comment below. Or you can get at me on Twitter. I have a twitter account that I haven’t been using at all and this seems as good a time as any to use it. If you’ve got an opinion about what should go on the EP and you want to express that in 140 characters or less, find and follow @EatThatGuitar and let me know what’s good.

Thanks everyone for reading. I hope you enjoy the song and please let me know your thoughts on the non-iPad recording. I’m going to start planning a timetable for that soon and I would like any thoughts you might have as I do. 

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The Motherfucking Sky Captains of God Damned Industry!

You gotta take that girl for a walk!

You gotta take that girl for a walk!

Ladies and gentleman (and mutants). At this very moment there is a group of fellow human beings out there in the world, and they are traveling across the southeastern corner of our nation. This group makes up three-quarters of the future-retroist/folktronic/rock and roll band The Sky Captains of Industry. They are currently deep into a month-plus long tour in support of their new album Rocket City. They are also living out a strange parallel existence. Acting out a real world version of the story told in their very high-concept, near rock opera, album of music. The very same one they are out promoting.

See what had happened was, the men and woman of the Sky Captains of Industry created an album which is essentially a series of vignettes. And these vignettes tell the story of a group of people who travel across the country in search of Rocket City. It seems that our heroes have discovered a time capsule, and in so doing have discovered a host of music from the past and a magazine that talks all about a city full of rockets. A Rocket City. As a result the gang heads out for this city, fights off cannibals, nearly drown in the great inland sea, and leave behind a beautiful and eclectic set of set of songs. Many of which use the concept of the album as a jumping off point to explore some more allegorical territory.

While allegories dressed as science fiction may not be new to this world, they’ve never been more aesthetically pleasing than they are here. I mean, at bottom, once you strip away all the concept and metaphor, Rocket City is just a really, really great sounding record of awesome songs. But this of course is all buoyed by the story and the metaphor and the beautiful EW Harris-isms that cover this thing from head to toe.

Meanwhile though, the actual members of the Sky Captains (minus one) are currently traveling the country. Much like the heroes of the record they’re pushing. And while they may be traveling from Rocket City instead of to it, they are certainly risking life and limb in the land of cannibals (Florida). And they are certainly going to save the rest of everyone’s heart. Just you wait and see America.

To learn all about the SCI’s adventurous journey across the Altered States of America you should tune in here:

To hear the record you should tune in here:

And consider this:

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A Robbery.

First World Lo-Fi: The iPad Sessions.

Ladies, gentlemen, representatives from the Walgreens PR department. As you may know, I have been working on an unorthadox recording project. The basic gist is that I’ve been spending many, many hours playing and singing into an iPad, to create relatively low quality recordings of what I hope are relatively high quality performances. Not just acoustic guitar and voice type recordings, mind you. No that would be easy. These are grandly designed, fleshy, waaaaaaay over complicated multi-track recordings.  Made with the built in microphone of an iPad.  I call it – First World Lo-Fi: The iPad Sessions.

Today, after an unsettling amount of work, I am very happy to share my newest, and most complicated installment yet. I’ll talk a lot more about it below, but for those of you who like to cut to the chase, It’s called A Robbery. And here you go: (Certain browsers will see a player, those like me with IE will probably have to follow the links.)  

A Robbery.

For those of you who would rather not know a lot of details about how this thing got made, you can go on your way after this paragraph. Before you go, just know that I’m playing a couple shows coming up. One is at Ceol on Wednesday. This is going to be a lot of fun, happiness and good feelings squeezed into a small back room that may remind you of your grandmother’s living room. You should come to that.  Tell your friends, and share this song freely if you like it. Downloads are free on Bandcamp and Soudcloud, and if you email me [chrismichaelbrooklyn -AT-] with a request I’ll send you an mp3 copy and lyrics. Go now with my blessing.

Now for those of you with perhaps a little too much interest in these kinds of details:

For this project, I used Audacity to edit and assemble all of the moving parts that make up A Robbery. I can understand that an iPad Sessions purist might be offended by this introduction of non-iPad elements. Assuming this person exists, let me assure you that all parts were recorded with an iPad. Only some of the more complicated editing and manipulation was performed outside the iPad. It’s also the case that once you reach a certain number of iPad tracks the whole thing risks getting unlistenable without a little outside manipulation. LOTS of build up on certain frequencies can occur. I’m not saying this track is necessarily listenable. But it’s a lot closer to it than it could have been.

Those percussive sounds are hand claps I sampled with the iPad and then played really low on the iPad keyboard to make a weird cardboard explosion-y sound.  They are in fact the same hand claps you hear that actually sound like hand claps, just really mangled.

What I’m most excited about with this recording is that it marks a shift in my attitude towards this project. I was looking at it all wrong. I was planning on making this thing about building some arrangements for songs I’ve already written. There may still be some of that to come, but what this song represents is the first time I’ve written a song for the project. And I think I want to keep that rolling for a while.

I started this recording months ago. I recorded the opening guitar stuff and wrote the first few verses. When I finally got back to it, I had no idea what I wanted to do with it. I started by finishing the rhythm guitar parts and organ. Then I wrote the rest of the song on top of that. It’s the first time I’ve written this way, and I think I’m going to try it again with another unfinished song idea. By the time you read this I hope to already be working on it.

In the meantime, I hope you like the song. Check out the full collection of misadventures in iPad world here:  I make a point of writing stuff about each of the tracks on the individual song pages, so if you’ve read this far into the details section be sure to click on the individual song pages for more info on each of them. 

Come out to Ceol on Wednesday. I tell people to do this often, and no one has ever regretted taking me up on the suggestion. Wednesday night at Ceol is a really good time.

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The Poor Mouth.

There is a place in the north Bronx.  A warm welcoming place, where people will sit down on a Sunday night in one of the coziest bar spaces I’ve ever seen, and listen to guy with a guitar stand and sing a bunch of songs he wrote. That’s a rare kind of thing. And it feels good. Real good. You can find it just down 238th Street from the 1 Train. It’s called An Beal Bocht Cafe.  The talented Mr. Marc Campbell (aka Marc CK) hosts, tends the bar, and puts the whole thing together.

The Sunday before last, I got a chance to stand there, in the Bronx, in the middle of the bar room, and play a bunch of songs I wrote.  For a group of people who were just tremendously nice about the whole thing.  They listened closely, but not too closely, drank heavily, but not sloppily. These were my kind of folks.

Just before I started playing I had this overwhelming feeling of Deja Vu.  As Marc Campbell asked me if I was ready to go and turned off the iPod, I had an intense feeling that I had done exactly this before.  Sitting here today, I am 100% certain I had never been to An Beal Bocht Cafe before Sunday.  I’ve met Marc a handful of times, but this was definitely the first time he’d ever needed to turn off an iPod before I started to play.  But in that moment I was convinced that I had been in exactly that position before.  It gets stranger.  In my memory, the show did not go well.  It started just like Beal Bocht started, but somewhere near the top, this show from a shadow reality went off the rails. I mean it was bad. The only people paying attention were openly heckling me. It was so loud I couldn’t hear myself, and the things that the handful of hecklers were saying were really pretty mean. And vaguely threatening.

So as I’m standing there, in this spot, in the north Bronx, where I’ve never been before, where I know no one but Marc, who I’ve only met a few times, having this memory/premonition of intense failure, you can understand that deep down I was a little nervous. Irrationally scared of the group of people coming in from the outside area, gathering around me, sizing me up.

Luckily, things went far better on Sunday than in the strangely sharp memory of the shadow reality.  If the folks at the Beal Bocht hated me, they did a good job hiding it. That’s really all I ask.

After having several extensive conversations, concerning most things existing in the universe, with the guy who does the bookings, a Councilmember’s aid, an Attorney, and of course Marc, I made my way back towards Brooklyn. Only I fell asleep on the train and it took me until about 6 am to get home. But it was worth it. I had a really good time.

There was a really shaky moment when I couldn’t find the opposite entrance after I woke up in crown heights. That resulted in me walking around in circles at 4 oclock in the morning in an unfamiliar neighborhood. Then I got to witness the exact moment that the previous night turns into the following morning. This is not, despite the common understanding, at sunrise. It is the moment you go from being the only one on the platform, to the only one on the (now crowded) platform who’s still trying to make it home. This generally occurs sometime before sunrise.

One last thing – I am very close to being done with the next installment of iPad recording. It is far more involved than anything I’ve done yet, and contains a fair amount of noise and dissonance. I promised long ago that this project would get weird, and now I seem to be heading squarely in that direction. The weird direction. South-West? I think that’s right.     

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